Pastoral Letter - 13th November 2020
My Dear Friends, For some reason I have been thinking about politicians, and about truth, this past week. I can’t think why! Pilate, himself a political leader, once famously said, "What is truth?" Perhaps it is of lasting significance that it was someone seeking to survive and thrive within the political sphere who asked such a provocative and profound question. In his case, he did so in relation to one who Himself claimed to be "The Way, The Truth and The Life." This coming weekend, on Bible Sunday, we will be giving thanks for the revelation of who God is and how He seeks to interact with the people of His making. We will be celebrating the Christian Scriptures, incorporating God’s revelation of Himself to the ancient people, the Jews, in the Old Testament, the fulfilment of those prophecies and the account of who God is in His Incarnate form in the New Testament: Jesus Christ of Nazareth. We also remember the story of the early Christians forging their way forward, learning how to be God’s people, continuing Jesus’ ministry, negotiating the challenges, cultural situations and temptations of their day and seeking to live their lives inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit in The Acts of the Apostles and the Letters to the early Christian communities. Many of us have Bibles. They may be inherited tomes from previous generations of our families, in whatever language was their native tongue. We may have volumes which were carefully chosen and ceremoniously given to us at our Baptism or Confirmation. Others of us may have bought a version for ourselves, which we have found easier to read and understand, either due to the translation or the size of print! Some will have pictures, others will be of dense uninterrupted script. A century ago Bibles were given a special place in the homes of those who owned them. In many cases it was the largest and the most beautiful book people possessed. Oftentimes it would stand on a table for all to see, open and read at least on the Sabbath Day as in the case of my Grandparents, in English and in Welsh. Alas, many Bibles now remain unopened, gathering dust on shelves, like songs unsung, laughter unheard, cries unheeded, by those who have become forgetful of their presence, distracted as so many of us are by the challenges and complexities of contemporary living. Bibles, Scriptures, Gospels: stories recorded over thousands of years, of our emerging sense of who God is, how He reveals Himself, how He longs to be related to, how He would have us live and be alive to the gift of life, the gift of one another, the gift of Himself to each and every one of us. What place do the Scriptures have in your life, or in mine? How carefully, how prayerfully do we engage with them and how frequently and with what sincerity of purpose? Such have been the grim realities, the chill winds sweeping through the world during the Covid Pandemic that I must admit, I have looked to the Scriptures as never before. I have turned to them to help me make sense of what is happening and how God is seeking to minister to us through His word at such a time as this. After Lent, Holy Week, Easter and the Sundays leading up to Pentecost, I searched the Scriptures for passages we could all focus on Sunday by Sunday, which would help resource us and remind us of God`s presence with us and His purpose for our lives. I needed Him to show me in moments when He was present in the Gospels: * how He can even now intervene in our reality, * how He can reach out to us in our pain, fear, anxiety, suffering, questioning. * who He is for us as we try to support, comfort and encourage one another. And I am so grateful that Sunday after Sunday I found such riches which I could feed from, be nourished by, which I could in turn share with you.
Over recent months we have looked at such passages as: The stilling of the storm: Luke Ch. 8 v. 22-25 Christ’s commandment to love: Luke Ch. 6 v. 35-38 The raising of Lazarus: John Ch. 11 v. 1-44 The healing of the 10 lepers: Luke Ch. 17 v. 11-19 The Good Samaritan: Luke Ch. 10 v. 25-37 God’s provision for all whom He loves: Luke Ch. 12 v. 22-34 The feeding of the 5,000: Matthew Ch. 14 v.13-21 The Risen Jesus appearing to the disciples on the beach: John Ch 21 v.1-14 And many more passages which encouraged and inspired us as we dealt with our present situation.
"What is truth?" Pilate, the politician asked. What indeed! We have surely all been questioning the veracity, legitimacy, authenticity of what we are being told. People seek to influence our idea of what is true through social media. It is claimed that data now exists on all of us who have ever used Facebook, Instagram, Google and the like, recording our preferences, our proclivities, our politics, our interests, our biases. This information is apparently then used to target us as certain people, businesses, political parties and interest groups seek to influence our decision making or sway our behaviour patterns. I heard this on the BBC, so it must be true! If it is true, then it is attempted manipulation on a grand scale. Who can we trust? What indeed is truth? Who can authoritatively speak to us about the things which are real, which are true? "Fake news" is a phrase someone has been using rather frequently over the past four years or so, and will probably continue to do so. It is a phrase many of us may be tempted to throw toward those who present us with unpalatable news. And of course, the relationship between truth and trust is core. If we believe something to be true, we then feel that we can trust that truth, sometimes even with our lives. If we believe someone to be truthful, again we feel we can trust them, sometimes even with our lives.
What is true, what we trust, are of vital importance as we negotiate the untruths which seek to influence the direction in which we travel, the choices which we make, the decisions on who we give power to. The relationship between truth and trust is a significant one which all of us need to heed, examine and take seriously.
For me, perhaps for you too, the bright light which has forensically exposed things over this past year, has demanded that we look at our faith and consider..... - Is it merely a nice idea? - Is it just something pleasant to do on a Sunday? - Is there any depth and reality to it? Like the sower and the seed, on what ground is our faith sown? * Depthless ground where no roots can take? * Arid land where nothing nourishes? * Dark places where etiolation leads to strangeness and diminishment?
* Rich, fertile soil?
How true are the tenets of our faith, of the Christian Scriptures? Do they engage with the truths we are living with? Do they offer anything which feeds, refreshes, gives hope? We must all work out the answers to this question for ourselves. I for one am finding myself grateful for the "grounding" of recent events, the shining and more tangible sense of the Saviour standing at the heart of the world, noticing, caring, loving, weeping, reaching out, absolutely at the heart of the world He once came to and smiled at and breathed the air of. The one who, we are told in John`s Gospel, said "I have come that you may know the truth and that the truth may set you free." (John Ch. 8 verse 32.)
There are many who come purporting to offer us the truth, but we must all examine for ourselves what is true, who is true, so that we may trust to that and find sustenance, strength and creative energy in that. Is Christ true? Is He truth for you? And if He is, then what difference does that make to your life? How will you seek to build your life around the teaching and example of this man if true you find Him to be? How will you allow His truth to influence, inspire, direct, determine how you act, how you behave, what you value, how you relate to others? Many come claiming to offer truth, but do they? Christ claims to be "the way the truth and the life" (John Ch. 14 verse 6). Is He these things for you? And if He is, what difference does that make, should that make, will that make, to who you are? The final full stop was written at the end of the last sentence of the Scriptures centuries ago. But the story of who God is, how He interacts with us and how He intervenes in our lives, goes on. You and I are part of the unfolding story of His revelation, His relationship, with His people. Our stories are part of the One Great Story. In that sense, the Bible continues in you and in me. We are the living pages of the book which celebrate the unfolding story. My friends, in our case, what will it say? With blessings and best wishes
Jeff Please join us this Sunday for our Zoom service at 9.30am when we shall be giving thanks for The Holy Bible.
The readings are: Colossians Chapter 3 verses 12-17 and Luke Chapter 4 verses 14-21.
The Collect: Blessed Lord, Who caused all Holy Scripture To be written for our learning: Help us so to hear them, To read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them, That, through patience and The comfort of your holy word We may embrace and forever hold fast The hope of eternal life Which you have given us in Jesus Christ Our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit One God, now and for ever. AMEN.
The church will be open for you to come in and pray: Sunday 3pm-4pm Wednesday 10am-11.30am. All welcome!